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During a special meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 3, the Moab City Council approved an ordinance amending the City’s Municipal Code to require that 33 percent of housing units proposed for multi-household developments in the R3 and R4 zones be designated as active employment units occupied by qualified active employment households (AEH) as defined by the ordinance. The AEH ordinance aims to help reduce the deficit of local workforce housing, which affects all Moab businesses and sufficient staffing for essential services required for the basic operation of community needs, including the the school district, medical services, and municipal services such as law enforcement.
“This is not low-income housing. This is about giving people a chance,” City Council Member Jason Taylor said during the Aug. 3 meeting. “This isn’t a land grab. This isn’t about ‘crush the greed’. This is about supporting Moab locals, and I hope we can all get behind that.”
Moab City staff has worked to develop the ordinance since October 2021 and began seeking input from the community in early 2022. Staff and elected officials have been in discussions with stakeholders, including the Utah Property Rights Coalition, Utah Home Builders Association, the Utah Association of Realtors, and lenders, since March 2022 to identify potential areas of concern before drafting the final ordinance aimed at increasing the availability of housing options for local workers.
Representatives from several housing groups spoke in favor of the ordinance during Wednesday’s meeting.
“Thank you all for your ongoing support and hard work to work out this ordinance and see it through,” Laura Harris, chair of the Moab Area Housing Task Force, told the council. “We are extremely excited about this ordinance. We fully support this and want to do anything possible to continue the movement of this.”
Kaitlin Myers, executive director of the Moab Area Community Land Trust, also voiced support.
“I am here to speak in support,” Myers said. “I understand the power of deed restrictions to create a more vibrant, more affordable safe and healthy community. … This is an amazing mechanism to ensure that as we continue to build out within the city we know that we are preserving housing for people that live and work [here] and love this community. … This is a really exciting day.”
Moab realtor Randy Day, who is president of the Utah Association of Realtors, said the group appreciated “all the dialogue that’s happened. All the hard work that’s happened. And most of all, what you’re trying to do.” Day added that it is “paramount to create housing that’s going to stay in the community, be used by the community, working folks in the community.”
He said the members of the Utah Association of Realtors are “hoping we’ll work together,” and added that the City’s efforts “have been stellar and I appreciate them. We appreciate being involved.”
Prior to voting, City Council Member Kalen Jones and other council members thanked City staff and the stakeholders for the months of work spent in developing and negotiating the AEH ordinance. Council member Luke Wojciechowski noted the “long and arduous process” that led to the final ordinance, adding, “I really appreciate everyone who was involved in this.”
“As we’re all well aware there’s an ongoing housing crisis in Moab,” Council Member Jones said. “The city and county have pursued the same tools that many other communities have, for longer than us, and the crisis persists.” He added, “There is no silver bullet. … We need to use every arrow in the quiver, and then some, and hope that in 30, 50, or a hundred years Moab still has the vibrant and diverse community of residents that makes it what it is, and isn’t streets of dark houses, like so many other similar communities that have had their real estate converted from homes into simple investment vehicles.
“We can’t solve this problem without the participation of the development community, and this change to our zoning code is a reasonable compromise between the needs of the community and developers, allowing high-density redevelopment to profitably continue while making a moderate contribution to the needs of the community.”
In response to discussions with stakeholders, several adjustments were made to the final ordinance, including lowering the percentage requirement from 42.5 percent to 33 percent, increasing the building height requirement from 30 feet to 35 feet to allow for three-story construction, and decreasing the parking requirements to one space for studio and one-bedroom units, and 1.5 parking spaces for two-bedroom units and larger.
The final City ordinance also includes a provision to waive one-third of the planning and building permit fees. A 50-year deed restriction sunset clause, a provision removing the deed restriction in the event of foreclosure, and a parachute clause that allows the deed restriction on dedicated units to be removed if the property owner is unable to rent a unit within 120 days at a market rate defined within the ordinance.
“A lot of hard work went into this process, and the outcome is success,” said Moab Mayor Joette Langianese. “We have succeeded in adding one more tool to our toolbox to help ensure local residents can continue to live in Moab.”
In addition to the AEH ordinance, in 2018, the City of Moab purchased property on Walnut Lane for the purpose of creating affordable local housing. That project be made possible by utilizing the City’s 2019 planned affordable development (PAD) ordinance, which allows increased density for developments that include a percentage of affordable units. In 2018, the City also enacted the assured workforce housing ordinance, which required any new overnight accommodations to either include a designated percentage of workforce housing as part of the development or pay a fee to the City’s affordable housing fund.
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